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The IDEaL Teaching Platform

IDEAl components

The International Digital Education and Learning (IDEal) platform was developed in the context of the DAAD funded INGENIoS project: Indo-Germany Network Interaction of Scientists. This project aims to strengthen institutional cooperation between universities in India and Germany. In addition to research cooperation, cooperation in teaching is a central part of international university cooperation.

At the beginning of the project, mobility measures came to a standstill due to the Corona pandemic. Against this background, new approaches and forms of international cooperation of students and teachers had to be developed and tested, which go beyond mobility , and allow for a continuous and sustainable cooperation - even without traveling. Sustainable in the given context means both: long-term cooperation within the limits of the available resources, also beyond the funding period, as well as sustainable in the sense of environmental sustainability e.g. reduction of CO2 emissions.

The goal of the IDEaL platform is to provide international teaching for students (here with focus on Germany and India) and to provide a platform that promotes professional competence building, international discourse and network building. IDEaL employs Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) approaches by combining self-paced online learning in an international setting, with interactive involvement and discourse formats of students and faculty, as well as IT based activating and communication elements (Apps, XPertEy) applicable for outdoor learning. Thus competence building of the given scientific topics (here environmental sciences, geography) is augmented by international exchange and building of intercultural competences through direct cooperation in and outside of the classroom.

Against the background of the need for increasing international cooperation, and in light of the challenges which need to be mastered in the societal transformation towards sustainability, a platform was sought, which facilitates continuous international cooperation, which can be integrated into ongoing study programs, provides regional and professional competence, facilitates networking, and leads to limited or no additional CO2 emission in the process of internationalization.  The IDEaL concept uses different digital tools depending of the purpose and goal for organization, preparation, activation, cooperation, discussion, field experience and cooperative or individual research.

The IDEAL platform consists of the following components:

  • teaching and learning control through the ILIAS E-Learning Platform at University of Cologne (UoC). The screenshot shows an example of the structure of a course. In the respective folders, teaching materials and links to NEARPOD (NP) or other sources is provided.

  • activating and cooperative flipped classroom teaching through lectures, exercises and tutorials with the help of NP. NP is an instructional software that offers a variety of indicidual and cooperative tools in addition to the presentation of audio-augmented slideso. The learning content is presented using a Flipped Classroom format. Learners prepare classes in the student mode of NP independently within an allotted time frame. Slides are explained by audio. In the follow up discourse session, the educator discusses the content of the class in the NP live-mode. In this mode the same slides, or if needed additional materials, are used and controlled by the teacher to discuss open questions. Activities in class can be added to assess the learning advancement of the student irrrepective of their presence in class or remote participation.
    Depending on the teaching context, our IDEaL courses consist of different teaching categories (e.g. for internships: basic concepts, lectures, tutorials). The graph the structure of an IDEaL course is exemplified by two courses. Different types of slides are used to provide a presentation form according to the teaching goal, occasion, and purpose. Interactive materials augment the slides. Activating approaches and materials are used for reflection and for checking the achieved level of knowledge. Different formats for cooperation facilitate interaction of students among each other and with the teacher.

  • Topic-, problem- and solution-oriented cooperation in small (international) student groups (3 - 5 members per group) are utilized to facilitate direct international cooperation. Depending on the type of event, approaches to problem solving are discussed in small student groups via Zoom.

  • collaborative experience in the field (field trips, field experience) is facilitated using the assisted reality system XpertEye. Information and direct exchange in the field is integrated depending on the type of class. Particularly in Geography and Environmental Sciences, an direct visual of places of interest supported with live audio communication provides a realistic and lively impression on the conditions at the site. For example, a students in the field is supported by information provided by the remote expert. The student in the field can send live video or high quality pictures, which can be augmented visually or explained by the remote expert. Likewise, the XPertEye system can be used by lecturers and teachers in the field to facilitate interactive participation of students in the classroom. The screenshot shown here shows a group of students in India being (co-)supervised by a teacher in the office. The teacher or supervisor in the field wears the XPertEye system, which allows the person in the office virtually to look over the shoulder of the person in the field and to follow the conversation through the integrated microphone. The location of the person wearing the camera is displayed. The person wearing the camera (see picture) can receive information on the small screen of the headset, while the headset camera provides the over-the-schoulder perspective to the remote participant. This allows direct assisted-reality communication of the remote and on site participant.  Here we see a student explain a meteorological station to other students abroad using with the XPertEye system.
    In addition, protocoll based observations with smartphone apps activate students to take their own observations. Based on this observational evidance conclusions or interpretations can be drawn. The smartphone apps can be used to collboratively collect data in the field. The learning experience of the students is supported by live discourse meetings conducted with ZOOM. The participants reflect on their knowledge with the help of the teacher and also discuss the problems and possible solutions against the respective regional background. The Zoom events usually takes place in a hybrid mode. Thus students on site are in the classroom, and students at the partner university are either in the classroom of the partner university or participate with their own devices individually from wherever they are.

Currently three courses are implemented in IDEAL:.

  1. urban climatology - basic concepts and microclimatic modeling with ENVIMET

  2. catchment hydrology - Basic Concepts and Eco-hydrological Modelling with SWAT+

  3. international law and the climate emergency

To participate in the courses, students must either be enrolled at UoC or an a partner university cooperating with UoC. This allows the educator to plan and establish international collaborative groups and facilitate international / interdisciplinary cooperation. Joint international courses are currently conducted with the Institute for Environmental Education and Research (BVIEER) at Bharaty Vidyapeeth Deemed University Pune and with IISc Bangalore. Within the limits of a suitable class size and the available teaching capacity students from additional cooperation partners can also attend.

The suitability of the IDEAL approach was evaluated in the frame of a course on “Urban Climatology” taught in the winter term 2022/23 and 2023/24. 32 students (20 UoC and 12 BVU) participated in the first, 36 students (16 German, 10 Indian) in the second round. Computational resources at UoC were used by both student groups from UoC and BVU via remote desktop. The course evaluation addressed three categories with 45 questions: blended learning approach, suitability of the technology used and internationalization / interdisciplinarity. Overall the organizational aspects (17 questions) of the class received good (27%) to very good (62%) grades (n=39). The different aspects of the technology used (9 questions) was also perceived rather positively by the students (24% good; 64% very good; n=36). The internationalization aspects (8 questions) received good (19%) to very good (63%) grades (n=36).The following figure gives a brief exemplary overview of the evaluation of this new teaching format. In summary, the students evaluated this course very positively.

Student reflections on the class and teaching concept were also requested in the frame of this anonymous evaluation. Here are some exemplary examples of the feedback provided by the participants:

  • “The concepts of this class are very nice due to the various learning approaches and especially the NEARPOD tutorials. It was also the course where I have learned the most in my entire studies so far.”

  • “Xpert Eyes is a very useful tool and intuitive.”

  • “Very good discussions came up during the international group works with the other students.“

  • “The exchange with the Indian students motivated me and it is a good idea to develop our own research project with an Indian partner.”

  • “I liked the fact that the inter-nationality groups were created for group assignments as they allowed me to interact and learn from my peers from a different background.”

A comprehensive overview about the IDEaL platform was presented in New Delhi during the DAAD iHED 2024 conference.

For more information please contact Prof. Dr. Karl Schneider